June 18, 2024
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June 18, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

‘The Shabbat Meals Initiative’ Nourishes Bodies and Souls From Abroad

In the aftermath of the October 7 massacre, Jewish communities throughout the world were overcome with emotion and the desire to assist our brothers and sisters in Israel. The explosion of hate on October 7 was met with a different kind of eruption in WhatsApp groups globally, where grassroots efforts emerged to provide much-needed supplies to reserve soldiers, donate clothing and other essentials for families displaced from their homes and mobilize blood and breast milk donations to support the victims physically impacted. We witnessed the horrific reality of thousands whose lives will never be the same, like young children suddenly left without parents and parents with young children unnaturally stolen from them before their time.

The Jewish community stepped up. We met hate with love, cruelty with kindness, and evil with good. While the needs were and are endless, so is the desire to help, a clear sign of our resiliency, community, humanity and connectivity as a nation.

Within this context, these women, who have chosen to remain anonymous, are sharing their story, which is undoubtedly one of the many incredible grassroots initiatives that emerged in the post 10/7 world. This story is about the power of women banding together, across borders, to answer a much-needed call for help during unprecedented times.

In mid-October, it became clear that life was, and would continue to be, incredibly challenging for our loved ones in Israel. Families in border communities were uprooted from their homes, recurring sirens brought life to a standstill, schools and daycares suddenly closed, and thousands were called up to defend the country. This left unprecedented numbers of young women (many displaced themselves) as “soldiers” on the home front–quieting their own and their children’s anxiety, praying for their husbands’ safe return, and keeping morale high as they juggled the tasks of home, war and work without any practical or emotional support from their spouse.

With their hearts in Israel despite their physical location, these six women–three in New Jersey and three in Jerusalem, banded together to answer this critical need. They asked, “If we could imagine being in their shoes, what would be most helpful? How could we send a hug from abroad and tell all these families–women whose husbands were called up and fending for the home front alone, along with families evacuated from their homes and communities, that we were thinking of them?”

The beauty and sanctity of Shabbat, the need to slow down and nourish the body and the soul, is larger than any one individual. In ordinary times, Shabbat is what often “saves” us from the mundane, stressful work week. Now, at a time when our Jewish identity is under attack, prioritizing the values of Shabbat—emblematic of our tenacity in the fight for Jewish survival throughout history—serves to strengthen the Jewish communities and the very values our enemies seek to eradicate. Hence, the response of these women to the call for much needed support was to create The Shabbat Meals Initiative, providing food for Shabbat to families in need.

Over the course of the last eight weeks, The Shabbat Meals Initiative collected approximately $50,000 from generous donors primarily across the tri-state area eager to help make life just a little more manageable for those most directly impacted in Israel. One hundred percent of the donations raised were used to feed close to 1,500 souls living under incredibly difficult circumstances in the aftermath of October 7, including evacuated families from Israel’s northern and southern borders, families with young children with a parent called up to military duty, and, in some cases, supplying hot meals directly to soldiers at army bases. The initiative grew from week to week, attracting new donors and many repeat contributions from incredibly generous families who understood the importance of a warm Shabbat meal during these incredibly challenging times.

Naomi Grumet, founder of the Eden Center, a women-based charitable organization in Jerusalem, was instrumental in organizing the initiative on the ground–coordinating with a wonderful caterer, Nova Catering (eerily named following the massacre at the Nova festival and yet another example of fighting darkness with light) to logistically manage the needs each week and distribute the meals. Consistent with The Eden Center’s core mission to strengthen women and families, the initiative started with supporting the wives of soldiers who were left holding down the fort while simultaneously summoning strength for their partners on the front lines (studies have shown that soldiers are able to fight much better when they know their family is being taken care of). They quickly realized that the need was much greater than initially anticipated.

The team in Israel would share from week to week, often on the verge of tears themselves, the outpouring of gratitude from the recipients of such meals with messages like “you saved me” and “you made me feel like I am not alone.” We are sending “a hug from abroad,” Grumet said. “The food is necessary but the sentiment and care from thousands of miles away is equally important.”

Overcome with emotion, donor coordinators in America would pass these messages of gratitude along to the dozens of people who supported the initiative, many of whom broke down in tears themselves. The sense of community, responsibility, love and connection among these Jewish women overseas and at home–bonding through Shabbat food as a means to nourish and uplift others both physically and spiritually–is nothing short of remarkable and deeply grounded in the Jewish tradition. The Shabbat Meals Initiative is yet another example of the global, unbreakable bond of the Jewish nation.

For some recipients, the Shabbat Meals Initiative quite literally allowed the family to focus on those aspects of Shabbat which are always important but are especially so in our darkest moments: love, prayer, gratitude, rest, connection and community. Being part of this initiative and recognizing the value of those meals for these families and soldiers, has forever changed and elevated the mitzvah of preparing for Shabbat for these women and for many of those who were so closely involved.

If we have learned anything from October 7 and the months that followed, we must recognize the power we have as a nation when we are unified, and how vulnerable we are when we are divided. This is just one example of the impact that six can have – and the ripple effects are far greater! Imagine the potential when we are all united for a common and imperative goal.

Unfortunately, the needs on the Homefront have only gotten greater and these women won’t be able to continue without new sources of funding. They invite you to join us in this incredible opportunity! Contribute to the Shabbat Meals Initiative by using or sharing the link that follows. Funds are tax deductible and 100% of donations are used to nourish the bodies and souls of our brothers and sisters in Israel. To donate, visit: https://www.jgive.com/new/en/usd/donation-targets/110541

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